Let's imagine a society X. Society X is at a modern, 21th century (Information Age) level of development. Society X is run exactly like any modern, free, developed, and democratic society (ex. modern day Germany, Japan, USA). However, within 100 years, a caste system develops:

  • People are assigned to one of four inherited castes:

    • Monarchy (only the royal family): works like feudal kings, the Saudi Arabian monarchy, or the line of succession in North Korea (dictators)
    • Ruling class (1% of population): equivalent to modern-day bureaucratic government officials and CEOs of high ranking companies--only people in this caste can perform these jobs; claim a salary roughly equal to $700,000 in 2020

    • Specialist class (9% of population): lawyers, doctors, scientists, engineers, product designers, ect.; claim a salary roughly equal to $215,000 in 2020

    • Working class (90% of population): clerks, technicians, miners, farmers, ect.; claim a salary roughly equal to $40,000 in 2020

  • People are allowed to get education only corresponding to their caste determined by heritage and intermarriage between castes is outlawed
  • Unemployed people in the ruling and specialist castes can claim 40% of the salary that they would have made had they been employed
  • People in the working class facing unemployment receive only basic welfare and healthcare benefits, unlike unemployed people in the ruling and specialist castes

So how could a hereditary caste system develop within 100 years in a modern society? People in higher castes do not have any abilities or magic powers different from people in lower castes.

  • $\begingroup$ Are you ruling out something like a complete revolution of the current system via violent revolution? $\endgroup$
    – Halfthawed
    Mar 1, 2020 at 5:16
  • $\begingroup$ Is Society X the only society on its planet, or are there other societies? Very different situation if the society is in isolation. $\endgroup$ Mar 1, 2020 at 6:07
  • $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055 If society X sees itself as exceptional, it may not matter if other societies exists. I feel one is bound to find at least one actual example if the one is determined enough. $\endgroup$ Mar 1, 2020 at 6:15
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    $\begingroup$ @AdrianColomitchi I believe it would make a huge difference to the initial implementation whether or not there are other societies that citizens can immigrate from / emigrate to. Given that the organisers of Society X are aiming for a social stasis, it also makes a huge difference if neighbouring societies have progressed to a technological singularity before the X'ers can create their society. $\endgroup$ Mar 1, 2020 at 6:22
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know where you live, but that sounds like a pretty accurate description of the current social system in the free, democratic western society I live in. $\endgroup$ Mar 1, 2020 at 16:24

5 Answers 5


There are a few moving parts to make the society desired here. Overall, it's a cascading effect where the super rich and ultra rich will do what they can to preserve their wealth. Some cynics might call this the end result of Capitalism

Note: I have tried to keep this general where I can. Wall of Text ahead

Step 1: Establish a Ruling Dynasty

This is the easy part for societies that have it and a bit more difficult for those that don't. Regardless, this will be a transfer of power that will be highly objected without a global disaster going on or the plutocrats deciding it's a good idea to instill a puppet dynasty and throwing money at the idea.

Regardless of the how, it will be resisted as people do not like to give up their power. In some societies, it would require a change to their constitution (or similar document) to make such a concept even remotely legal in the first place.

Now as to the why we do this: Overall the reason is stability. Something, be it somebody actually blowing up the houses of Parliament/Congress, a pandemic, or war, some trigger event causes enough chaos and mayhem to warrant setting this up. It will be touted as a way to keep the country running, but really be a way for the rich to fully consolidate their power.

For countries that already have a monarch, well this part is technically done. Said monarchs might need to take back some of the power they have given away over the decades.

Step 2: Just in Caste

Well, now you have a ruler with enough power to make the laws. But how to handle the caste system? Well, typing for North America, it's handling itself quite fine already. The rich basically spend money specifically to separate themselves from the poorer folks already. All some people need is a push in a certain direction to land squarely in a caste, and to change the system to keep them there.

Working Class

Enough people here are essentially the Working Poor that they cannot afford a sick day unless it is a paid one. With rising costs of everything and a paycheck that cannot keep up with those costs, many are stuck poor with no chance of rising out barring a miracle. That is the current reality for many.

Keeping them there is simple in the sense of first never letting them own property. Without the ability to own their own home, they will forever have to pay rent to a higher caste in order to live there. A rent that can be tailored to take enough of their income to keep them poor, but without making homelessness a better alternative. It will be a balancing act.

The second big way to keep them from rising up the caste system is to prevent them from getting any form of loan or financial help that would help them ascend the ladder. This is easy because it will be the Ruling Class that has the money and a simple lookup will show them what class a person belongs to.

The third way is to only allow the Working Class enough education to do the jobs of the class. Most jobs you have listed in for the class only require a high school diploma (or equivalent) to attain with some of those jobs needing some manner of college level education. Put the focus on practical/applied classes and apprenticeships as opposed to classes heavy on theoretical content that they aren't really going to need. It's less keeping them uneducated as much as it is tailoring their education to their needs.

Separation is achieved by physically relocating people to higher density neighbourhoods. Apartment buildings that the Ruling Class owns will be the primary housing here with a handful of small bungalows that the wealthiest of this caste can potentially own with the infrequent duplex/triplex that the Specialist Class owns for extra income.

By offering a very basic healthcare and unemployment funds for this class, it keeps them from doing things that threaten the integrity of the class. The Ruling Class does not want a pandemic to cut through the streets because they can't go to a hospital, and they do not want people in agonizing pain due to disease. But overall, the Working Class is expendable and it is that overall thought that will guide healthcare decisions.

Side note: The big item you are missing for jobs here is Servant. It is not inconceivable for the Ruling Class to have servants or servant families to attend to them.

Specialist Class

Specialist jobs require a university degree on average with others needing further education on that, so that covers the education part of it. On that front, only approved schools can offer the degrees needed for Specialists to pursue their jobs. Not only that, there will be less of them in order to centralize them into one easy to track place. They will, of course, be priced such that the Working Class will never be able to afford it unless sponsored by a higher class (for personal retainer purposes likely)

They will never rise to the Ruling Class just because they lack the money to do so, and even if they do accumulate the money, they will never gather the appropriate influence. They are also kept down there by limiting what they own property-wise.

With a base 2020 salary of $86,000 unemployed, there might be some layabouts that cruise through because they are inept, relatively speaking. However, the class is designed to look good, but really keep them just as poor as the Working Class, just a prettier poor.

By not extending basic healthcare to the Specialists, it forces them to either tie up a portion of their money into a savings (held by the Ruling Class' banks) in case something happens, or suffer and be an example to others. By allowing them property in the form of houses, their personal office/stores, and the occasional property to rent, it ties up further income into maintaining those properties. However, they will be limited in how much they can own.

Expect small businesses to be owned by Specialists and have the Working Class work for them.

The Ruling class allows them loans to further deplete their money in the form of interest, and allows them highly limited investments into their ventures, perhaps as a reward for services rendered.

Ruling Class

Well, this class already exists at least in part. Multi-millionaires and billionaires that can throw money and influence around to get what they want and avoid paying taxes they do not want to spend. They are already segregated in part by large mansions with high walls, security guards to enforce their privacy, and the ability to pay more to access things that poorer people cannot.

For the Ruling Class, it is all about money and influence. Their life will revolve around networking, making connections, and expanding family fortunes. Since these are most likely the people that can access the ruler, some will also jockey for influence with the ruler. Others will be the people that administrate the lands.

To keep the lower classes out, the Ruling Class' children will attend an expensive boarding school, with the fees ensuring that they have the best of everything along with a superior experience, and that only they could afford it. This institution will be one part day care, one part school, and one part networking with each class making their life-long connections here. Children will be groomed for their roles, picked for the one they will have the most competency at for the most part. For those that cannot make it for reasons, an unemployment salary of 280,000 dollars (700,000 x 40%) will allow them to be comfortable, though not able to exert much influence.

These will be the people that can afford to own the large corporations and entire apartment buildings that the Working Class live in should they want to own them. They will have servants to attend to them. They will buy up the promising businesses that the Specialist Class start in order to prevent their rise and to keep the profits flowing to them.

The Ruling Class will also control information as since they are the administrators of the realm. It is their job to make sure that people stay in their roles and that people cannot ascend the class ranks. How they do it will depend on what kind of world feel you are going for.

Step 3: Enforced Separation

Now the hard part: enforcing the separation of the classes. Laws brought down by the leader are a start, but there are still a ways to go.

First minor thing: Eliminate the big prize jackpot lotteries/gambling. Dumping multiple millions on a Working Class person allows them to move up, if only virtually because they can afford the Specialist schooling. Once enough get that education because of a lottery win, then the idea of separation starts to break down. Prizes should either have a monetary limit or be non-cash prizes, such as a bungalow or vehicle.

Second: The punishment for intercaste marriage will be a demotion to the lower of the two spouse's castes as dictated by law. The Ruling Class counts on this to be both a deterrent and to provide informants into the lower castes without having to go there themselves when they need to know something.

Third: Jail is for those that cannot pay for their crimes with money and/or influence. This keeps the jails free of the Ruling Class, though their own mansions may serve as a gilded jail in those situations. Sure, it looks like the rich can buy their freedom, but that's just privilege (and it happens now to an extent). Demotion might be the boogeyman's sentence.

Fourth: Ensure that your entertainment is consistent with the reality you want to present. TV shows should not have a Working Class man rising through the classes without either consequences or a clear indication that it is fantasy. The goal is to ensure that the idea that they could realistically move up is never taken seriously.

Lastly: The changes need to be applied subtly or in small increments. Some will need laws to fully enact while others will just be a matter of convention. This is more about nudging things into the directions wanted as opposed to just dropping a new world order on people.

  • $\begingroup$ I think that the ruling class would still be able to go to jail in 5-star, segregated institutions for serious crimes like murder. However, they would have a MUCH higher ability to hire good lawyers to defend them from going to jail or prison. $\endgroup$
    – Galactic
    Mar 4, 2020 at 23:46
  • $\begingroup$ Absolutely. The key here is that while the law if fair, the legal system is not. Those of the Ruling Class will know and exploit that for their benefit. Plus the lawyers are in the lower Specialist Class which means that while they have to do their job properly, they can be ruined by the Ruling Class should it benefit them $\endgroup$
    – Haylen
    Mar 10, 2020 at 21:56

Disclaimer: any resemblance to currently existing societies is coincidental and not intentional (scout honor, cross me heart...)


  1. a certain president announces a skyrocketing deficit for 48 years and lower all the taxes in single digit range (because, why not? the central bank has negative interest rates anyhow, borrowing means earning money now). By presidential order, because a certain near-pandemic is hurting the economy, the country needs to be made great again and what better way than to take one for the team and encourage everyone else to spend or invest.

  2. the same president convinces his voters (now a majority, due to cutting taxes) to pressure their representatives to pass the 28th amendment to the Constitution lifting the limit on the number of terms a president can sit
    ... a while passes, like 1-2 years ..

  3. the govt cuts all the red tape and sides with the "employers" in regards with anything re workplace relations - because jobs! By a swear-to-God-is-only-a-coincidence, this affect absenteeism for whatever reasons (voting included. Oh, election happens on Tuesdays? How unfortunate!)

  4. the govt don't guarantees student loans anymore

Done! Inflation ensues and erodes the finances of the lower classes and banks decline high risk loans anyway, student loans included. Whoever can pay for their kids education now, is likely to fall into the specialist class.

And all within a single electoral term or two. Because of course the income tax will be restored after, just not all the other taxes.

  • $\begingroup$ This answer assumes that society X is the United States. But this could happen (with a little modification in any free society). $\endgroup$
    – Galactic
    Mar 1, 2020 at 6:40
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    $\begingroup$ @galactic_analyzer "But this could happen (with a little modification in any free society)." True. "This answer assumes that society X is the United States." False. It's just that US makes an easy and well known context to use as an example of how this can work. Otherwise, see the disclaimer. $\endgroup$ Mar 1, 2020 at 6:48
  • $\begingroup$ Another important element is the replacement of middle management jobs by computer algorithms devised by expensive experts. That creates a jobless gap between people doing the actual work and the expensive experts. $\endgroup$ Mar 1, 2020 at 9:07
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    $\begingroup$ Doesn't work, for fairly obvious economic reasons connected to points 3 & 4. E.g. if people don't have money to buy stuff, companies can't sell stuff, thus go out of business. Or if they can't find people who've paid for their own training, they will start training them - which already happens: searching on "company paid education" returns 1.6 billion hits. (I think that's the largest hit number I've ever seen.) $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Mar 1, 2020 at 17:25
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf The government will respond by cutting interest rates in case any of the working class manage to save anything, and subsidizing businesses that are having trouble. $\endgroup$ Mar 1, 2020 at 19:04

Establishing the working, non-specialist class:

  • Funding cuts in public schools reduce the quality of free, public education. Gang activity compounds the problem. Pretty soon there are more school resource officers than teachers.
  • Children being children, pretty soon anyone at a public school has an arrest record in addition to poor academic credentials. In private schools, the same offense would yield a stern talking-to by the principal ...
  • Either legally or just in practice, this arrest record bans those children from specialist jobs.

Establishing the ruling class:

  • Forget STEM degrees. Possibly even law. To really get ahead, you need a MBA from one of the really prestigious universities.
  • In both commercial and public administration, ignore the inhouse experts. Those external consultants might not know what they're talking about, but they know all the current buzzwords to impress executives who went to the same schools.
  • There is a glass ceiling on salaries and influence for non-consultants who don't have a certification from self-proclaimed management gurus. Those certifications cost a lot of money, but in this future they almost guarantee an income to afford the next course.

Making it hereditary:

  • Dumb down public primary schools as well. The only way to give children a decent education is to pay for an expensive private school. Having a good nanny who reads with the kids instead of parking them in front of the TV also helps, which perpetuates the line between the 9% and the 1%.
  • $\begingroup$ At the high end, make access to the CEO schools hereditary by preferring children of major donors. Only their graduates will make enough money to make the donations that will let their children attend those schools, so they can make enough money.... $\endgroup$ Mar 1, 2020 at 16:33
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    $\begingroup$ Doesn't work, at least not well enough to establish a system. At the lower end, there will always be those who will largely self-educate. At the upper end, private schools will (since their students are selected by their parents' ability to pay) graduate a lot of incompetent ignoramuses. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Mar 2, 2020 at 6:42

The society could develop a breakthrough, but wildly expensive, genetics technology that allows them to begin splintering classes along genetic lines. The more initial wealth you have, the better your augmentations, the more entrenched your position in society becomes.

Once the ruling and specialist classes can point to an "intrinsic" difference between the classes, it would be easy to pass the laws necessary to create the system you described. It would also be very easy to make lower classes vote against their best interests with the promise of opening up the genetic therapy to more people -- which never comes to pass, of couurse.

People in higher castes do not have any abilities or magic powers different from people in lower castes.

This may break this requirement. A way around it could be that the tech doesn't actually work and it's all a ruse to consolidate power.

  • $\begingroup$ To confirm: it counts only if the alteration does not affect physical strength, mental capacity, or magical abilities. For example, altering the faces of people in higher castes is allowed, but genetically engineering people in the specialist and ruling castes to have a superior intelligence does not count. $\endgroup$
    – Galactic
    Mar 1, 2020 at 18:36

Just like in the Roman Empire.

Here's a (somewhat condensed) history of Rome until the time of Constantine:

  1. Rome is founded by Romulus after he kills his brother Remus in a power struggle.

  2. It gradually grows into a thriving city-state, ruled by an elected senate.

  3. The four Punic wars cause Rome to become a major power, ruling the Mediterranean coast.

  4. Rome becomes somewhat decadent, with Congress the Senate descending into a state of constant squabbling and power-grubbing, unable to come to decisions.

  5. The Senate, desperate for time to get their act together, declare Julius Caesar their emperor.
  6. After a few years they manage to get their act together, only discover that you can't take away what has been given, and thus murder Caesar.

  7. Riding on public outrage over his father's death, Augustus Caesar takes over the crown, and dissolves the Senate.

  8. After Caesar Augustus dies, his son takes over the throne, starting the Caesars' dynasty.


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